Since the 2010 brutal attack on a Catholic church in Baghdad, Christians struggle to find hope there. In 2003, around 850,000 Christians were living in Iraq; now, only 200,000 to 300,000 remain. Many of them have fled Baghdad and Mosul seeking refuge in northern Iraq and other neighboring countries. But finding it difficult to build new lives there, most have returned to their homes only to once again face threats to their lives.
Where can they go? Dreams of living in foreign countries are common today among Iraqi Christians. One wonders if the Church in Iraq is dying as the situation in cities such as Baghdad and Mosul continue to deteriorate for Christians. The last attack, in a series of violence toward Christians, is of 66-year old Arkan Yakub from Mosul when several weeks ago, he was killed near the factory where he worked. Two times, he succeeded in escaping would-be kidnappers, but this time his attackers succeeded.
Where is hope for Christians in Iraq? You can find it in the individual stories of young Christians who have found ways to integrate themselves into their new homes; like 23-year old Maria. Four years ago, she fled from Baghdad together with her parents because they had been threatened. “I really struggled the first year after we fled Baghdad”, she says. “But I knew I had to go on. I could not mourn the things I had lost. I had to start somewhere so I went to college. I also studied about the Kurdish way of life. Because I went to college here it was pretty easy to find a job. And what I really like is that I am safe here.” Maria had to leave everything behind but did not give up. “My mom and dad taught me, ‘always keep your eyes pointed towards the future.’ And that’s what I am doing. Don’t give up,” Maria encourages, “start with something small and you will slowly move on.”
Her words of hope in her personal life can also be words of hope for the Church in Iraq; take one step every day and keep your eyes focused on Christ, the Rock of our salvation. The Church in Iraq is asking for our prayers as they struggle, to not only survive, but grow in numbers.
Today, Father, we lift up to You our oppressed brothers and sisters in Iraq. Many are left homeless, without means of support in the north, while others are facing threats on their lives in Baghdad and Mosul. Stir up their faith, show them Your presence with them, and encourage them as they press forward one day at a time. Cause them to be beacons of hope even to their Muslim neighbors. Amen